The Catholic bishops of Minnesota have published guidelines regarding gender identity and Catholic schools, emphasizing the Catholic mission of schools and the Church’s doctrinal teaching on sexuality and identity.
“The Catholic school is committed to providing a safe environment that allows students to flourish academically, physically, and spiritually. Catholic schools are obliged to provide an education and resources consistent with Catholic teaching,” the guidelines state.
Catholic education has as its foundation “the God-given irrevocable dignity of every human person.”
The guidelines use the term “sexual identity” in a way that is synonymous with “biological sex,” and they state that Catholic school students will be referred to by names and pronouns that reflect their sexual identity.
Students will also be allowed to use only those facilities (such as bathrooms or locker rooms) and participate in single-sex sports and activities that align with their sexual identity, rather than with their chosen gender identity.
Referencing the book of Genesis, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Pope Francis, that document then states that God created each person “in His own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” and that “God uses the body to reveal to each person his or her sexual identity as male or female.”
“A person’s embrace of his or her God-given sexual identity is an essential part of living a fulfilled relationship with God, with oneself, and with each other,” the document states.
“The physical, moral, and spiritual differences between men and women are equal and complementary. The flourishing of family life and society depend in part on how this complementarity and equality are lived out,” it adds.
The guidelines were presented on February 20-21 during a seminar for priests and Catholic educators in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis.
The document explains that schools will be responsible for communicating their particular policies regarding sexual identity “to each student in a way that is respectful of and consistent with each student’s God-given sexual identity and biological sex.”
The Minnesota document comes one month after Bishop Thomas Paprocki issued pastoral guidelines on the issue of gender identity for the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.
The guidelines are similar to the pastoral recommendations made by Paprocki, who noted that “the presentation of this truth must be made with love,” while the diocese must also communicate clear policies that reflect the faith of the Catholic Church.
While guidelines have now been issued for several dioceses, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has thus far remained quiet on the issue.
“Gender identity is an issue that the education committee has begun discussing, but at this time, there isn’t anything to release,” Chieko Noguchi, director of public affairs for the U.S. bishop’s conference, told CNA in response to questions about whether the national bishops’ conference plans to issue nationwide guidelines.
Noguchi added that because the bishops’ committee meetings are private, she could not comment on whether the bishop have already begun working on a document on transgenderism.
According to The Catholic Spirit, Minnesota bishops and the state Catholic conference began working on statewide guidelines in 2015, when Pope Francis began addressing the issue of gender identity in his encyclicals and exhortations.
The state’s bishops officially adopted the guidelines in June 2019, the same month that the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education released a document entitled “Male and Female He Created Them,” which denounced so-called gender theory and affirmed the principles of human dignity, difference, and complementarity.
“The denial of this (male-female) duality not only erases the vision of human beings as the fruit of an act of creation but creates the idea of the human person as a sort of abstraction who ‘chooses for himself what his nature is to be,’” the Vatican document stated.
CNA asked the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis why the guidelines were publicly released 8 months after they were adopted, but has not received comment as of press time.
Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis said at the introduction of Minnesota’s guidelines in February that he has had personal conversations with family members of those who identify as transgender, and that he knows the issue can be painful for those involved, The Catholic Spirit reported.
“A lot of times, when we’re in pain, we look for quick answers for that pain, and the culture wants to provide quick answers for that pain, but we know that the quick answer for that pain doesn’t ultimately bring healing,” Cozzens said.
“One of the things we have to do in our pastoral care is be willing to stand with people in their pain, and walk with them with an eye toward the greater good.”
According to The Catholic Spirit, Cozzens, who serves as the archdiocese’s vicar for Catholic education, said he and the state’s other bishops wanted to provide “practical clarity” on this issue to the parents who send their children to Catholic school and expect that they will be taught the truth according to the Catholic faith.
“(A)nd we knew that we had to do this in a way that’s calling people to a higher standard of these truths than our culture currently is, to help people get beyond the ideology and to the truth of who they are.”